He endured a tough, gruelling day, sinking to his knees after crossing the line and describing his tactics as "shocking" but Jonny Brownlee is world champion. On a damp day in Auckland the younger Brownlee succeeded his elder brother to the title, a second-placed finish in the grand final yesterday ensuring he finished on top of the rankings.
"Olympic bronze and World Champion," he tweeted. "I will take that."
Conditions were dire for much of the race, with heavy rain dousing most of the 40km cycle leg, but the rain eased by the time Brownlee and the Spaniard Javier Gomez, the Olympic silver medallist and the Briton's only rival for the world crown, splashed through the puddles and on to the blue home straight. The race came down to a sprint finish and it was Gomez who edged ahead yards from the line to finish in 2hr 29sec. Brownlee acknowledged he was beaten in the race and eased up to finish two seconds behind.
The result that mattered most, though, was Brownlee finishing inside the top three: silver meant world gold (pictured). "Jonathan is a well-deserved champion," said Gomez.
Last year Alistair Brownlee won the title for the second time but injury early in the season ended his chances of a third win. Instead, his brother now has a large trophy to decorate the new house he will move into when he returns home this week.
"It was a really tough day," said Brownlee. "Everyone was tired after the bike. The first two laps of the run were nice and easy, then Javier attacked and sped up a little bit and it came down to a sprint.
"My tactics were shocking. I let him hide from the wind and he just came past me. But I'm glad the season's over; it's been a long year and I'm tired."
It has been Brownlee's longest ever season, one stretched by Olympic preparation and a late finish. He will have some time off now, decorating the new house some 500m down the road from Alistair's, before returning to attempt to match his brother's two titles next year.
At 22 Brownlee will remain in the sport at least through to the Rio Olympics. Triathlon is enjoying a surge in popularity and in two years the sport will make its debut in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Brownlee will be among the favourites – how strong a favourite depends on his brother. Alistair, who beat Jonny in the two major races they competed in this year, may look to switch to the track for the Commonwealths. At the Olympic Games the elder Brownlee ran his 10km only a second slower than Chris Thompson, Britain's No 2 in the 10,000m, in his heat in the Olympic Stadium, and Thompson had not just swum 1500m and cycled 40km.
The younger Brownlee may have considered his own tactics "shocking" – you can take the boy out of Yorkshire but you can't take Yorkshire of the boy – yet there was never a moment when it looked as if the world title might slip away. He led the field out of Waitemata harbour after the swim and then tucked into the pack chasing the New Zealander Kris Gemmell, who made an early break on his bike.
Caution was the watchword during the ride around Auckland's hilly course. The heavy rain made conditions treacherous as Brownlee and Gomez, who trailed the Briton by 180 points coming into the race, kept wary eyes on each other. Gemmell led into the final leg but was soon caught by Gomez and Brownlee and the two then matched each other stride for stride through Auckland's puddled streets. Gomez found something extra at the last but it was not enough to stop him from having to look up yet again to a Brownlee on top of the podium.